910 ranch management takes shape amid uncertain 2024 budget
Citizen scientists and county employees are deploying across the 910 Cattle Ranch.
Now that Summit County is leasing the 910 Cattle Ranch, it has to figure out what to do with it.
The county has exclusive rights to purchase the nearly untouched 8,600-acre property below Jeremy Ranch for $55 million, after making a $15 million down payment in August.
The person in charge of managing it is Lands and Natural Resource Director Jess Kirby, though she’s not alone.
“I might be the only paid employee, but I do have a lot of help from our community,” she said. “It's been incredible to see the interest from not only practitioners and professionals, but from our community members who want to get out there and help in any way they can.”
The county launched the 910 ambassadors program earlier this fall, and the volunteers have since been hiking the land and reporting back with photos and observations about plant and animal life.
Students at Utah State University reached out to Kirby as well. They have been tasked to determine whether the portion of East Canyon Creek bisecting the property could be used as a recreational fishery.
Kirby says the No. 1 question people ask is if they can fish on the property. The answer is no, for now.
“East Canyon Creek was listed as an impaired stream in 2000. I believe we're not impaired anymore…the sewer district has helped with removing some phosphates out of the water. But it still gets high temperatures in the summer; the fish are very stressed,” Kirby said.
She says the Utah Department of Natural Resources has found plenty of adult fish but not juveniles, an indicator of an unhealthy fish population.
“Before we open it up to the public for fishing, we want to make sure that it's a viable and sustainable source,” Kirby said.
She says the county wants to move meticulously, slowly and intentionally because the property is essentially wilderness, and they want to handle it the right way.
There have been growing pains. Former Park City Councilmember Leslie Miller, the owner’s personal partner, objected when a Summit County jail work crew cut down some aspens in early November.
County manager Shayne Scott says the cutting of those trees wasn’t anticipated and the county is ironing out its plans.
“That was actually just an error and miscommunication,” he said. “But that kind of work is what's going to happen next year, and we're hoping to have a real solid plan in place for the spring,” he said.
Planning costs money; Scott’s proposed FY2024 budget includes $200,000 for consultants to help create that land management plan. But it’s one of several line items county councilmembers may cut to avoid raising taxes.
“So one councilmember, for example, said, ‘You can't touch this,’ and another councilmember said, ‘This is on the table for me,’” Scott said.
Regardless, the council is likely to approve a new hire to help with land management. When that person comes online and Kirby fills another vacancy, Summit County’s lands and natural resource department will have three staff members.
The council will make the final call on hiring at budget hearings in December.